West Bromwich Albion’s “controlling shareholder”, Guochuan Lai, made a surprise visit to the Black Country on Wednesday and met head coach, Valérien Ismaël, for the first time as the Frenchman was preparing for the televised fixture at Barnsley on Friday evening.
It was Lai’s first visit to West Bromwich for three years and it is thought to be the start of an attempt for him to re-integrate himself with the running of the club having apparently conceded that his desire to sell is unlikely to be satisfied for some time. It may turn out to be little more than a publicity stunt, but the quarantine requirements in both the UK and China mean that it is a significant effort for him to make the trip, and it can only be a positive sign for the immediate future of the club.
As for the preparations for the game at Oakwell, it seems unlikely that any of the four players that missed last weekend’s game due to positive COVID tests will take part on Friday night. Apparently, two of the four should be able to exit isolation on Friday, but with no involvement in training this week, it would seem a tall order for them to be involved. At the time of writing, there have been no reports of further cases at the Hawthorns, so the assumption is that the game will go ahead, although Albion’s opposition from last Saturday, Reading, have had a subsequent outbreak and their game with Luton this weekend has been postponed along with two further Championship fixtures.
Assuming the game does go ahead, the Baggies’ makeshift defence will once again be called into action. They weren’t really tested against Reading and, if only that Barnsley will be on their own patch, one would expect them to be put under more pressure on Friday night. However, the Tykes are the lowest scorers in the division with just 15 goals from their 22 games, and just 8 in their 11 games at Oakwell. Their two wins have both come at home, with their only victory in their last 20 matches coming against Derby County at the beginning of November.
Unsurprisingly, their recent run of results puts Barnsley bottom of every form table with the Rams’ points deduction the only thing keeping Poya Asbaghi’s team off the bottom of the Championship ladder. However, it is likely that the Tykes’ players will raise their game as they face the man who deserted them in the summer, so it may not be as much of a walkover as the form tables would suggest.
Given the COVID isolation issues, there isn’t much scope for Big Val to change the starting line up. Jordan Hugill played despite having suffered from the same sickness bug that sidelined Grady Diangana, so if both are recovered fully, that is one change that the Frenchman may seek to make.
Nonetheless, it is a game that Albion should be winning even though, as you can read below, Oakwell has not been a venue that has produced much success for the Baggies in recent years. Hopefully, Friday will see that particular run of results brought to an end.
Barnsley has not been a happy hunting ground for the Baggies – it’s been almost 75 years since Albion last tasted victory in that particular part of Yorkshire, a 1-0 win in a Division Two fixture in August 1947 thanks to a goal by Davy Walsh. The Tykes have been a division below for much of that time, but Friday will be Albion’s 20th visit to Oakwell since their last win although nine of the previous nineteen have finished all square.
The victory in 1947 was the Baggies’ sixth win in Barnsley and their best came in March 1928 when a double from Jimmy Cookson and further goals from Tommy Glidden and Joe Carter saw the visitors take both points with a 4-2 win. Barnsley’s biggest home win over Albion came somewhat more recently, a 4-1 win in August 2000. That was third straight defeat at the start of Gary Megson’s first full season at the Hawthorns, a campaign that ultimately finished with defeat in the play-offs. Lee Hughes put the Baggies in front but a brace each from Lee Jones and Neil Shipperley earned the points for the hosts.
Albion haven’t won any of the last five meetings with the Tykes. The last three have been drawn, including the last meeting at Oakwell on Boxing Day 2019, while Barnsley won the previous two, both in Yorkshire. The Baggies last beat the Tykes in September 2007 when goals from Filipe Teixeira and Craig Beattie secured the three points in a Championship fixture at the Hawthorns.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
26 Dec 2019 – League Championship
Barnsley 1 (Halme)
West Brom 1 (Krovinović)
1 Sep 2007 – League Championship
West Brom 2 (Teixeira, Beattie)
Last win at Barnsley
30 Aug 1947 – League Division 2
West Brom 1 (Walsh)
Albion’s Record against Barnsley
If you cannot see the tables, click here.